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“Jesus, Heal Me, Touch Me, Cure Me! – The Actions Of Jesus ARE The Origins Of Our Sacraments”


 

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Quote of the Day
  • ·        Today’s Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer  

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Please do not forget that this Tuesday, September 11th is “Patriot Day”.  In the United States, Patriot Day occurs on this date each year, in memory of the 2,977 killed during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  Initially, this day of remembrance was called the “Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001”.  President George W. Bush signed the resolution into law on December 18, 2001 (as Public Law 107-89[1]).  It is however, a “discretionary” day of remembrance.

On this day, the President requests that the American flag be flown at half-staff at individual American homes, at the White House, and on all U.S. government buildings and establishments, home and abroad.  The President also asks Americans to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time), the time the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

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This past weekend, my family and I witnessed my oldest son’s “PIR” (Passing-In-Review), his graduation from the Naval Recruit Training Center at Great Lakes, Illinois.  We were privileged to see his group receive an “Honor Flag”, plus, the rarely given “Hall of Fame” flag.  Dan (my son) was lucky enough to be able to spend Friday afternoon and all day Saturday with us on his first liberty.  We toured the Chicago area, and he was also able to spend quite a bit of time either texting, sleeping, or on Facebook – – something missing from his life for the past eight weeks.

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Quote of the Day:

 

“We said that faith heals our intellect and hope heals our memory.  Similarly, we can say that love heals our will by ordering our interests and actions toward giving ourselves to God and others, for their own sake.” ~ Fr. Jonathan Morris, “God Wants You Happy“, Harper One

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Today’s reflection: Jesus restores a man’s hearing and speech.  What do you need “restored” by Christ?

(NAB Mark 7:31-37) 31 Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis.  32 And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.  33 He took him off by himself away from the crowd.  He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; 34 then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)  35 And [immediately] the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.  36 He ordered them not to tell anyone.  But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.  37 They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well.  He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak.” 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Whatever Jesus did, he ALWAYS did well. (I wonder if he was the Star Quarterback on His high school football team, and class valedictorian as well.)  In essence – – AND in action – – Jesus always demonstrated a true love, a true beauty, and a true mercy of Father God in His actions. 

In today’s reading, Jesus heals a deaf man who had a “speech impediment”.  This is one of many stories about Jesus’ healing power.  In today’s story, we find clues about our understanding of our “sacraments” (rites established by Jesus Christ Himself to bring grace to those participating in and receiving the benefit of the rite or sacrament).  I am personally awed by the physical means – – to show the spiritual effect – – used by Jesus to heal the “deaf man”: the use of spittle and touch.  Jewish people of Jesus’ time would never had touched another’s ears or tongue, thus becoming “unclean” and not able to go into the synagogue or Temple to pray until purified.

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In this specific Gospel reading, we can see an image in the proclaiming of the good news, the Gospel, of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.  The geographic references in this reading tells us that Jesus is purposely journeying through Gentile territory.  Remember, Jesus had already previously visited this region, healing a person possessed by a demon at an earlier time in His public ministry.  (Is today’s event an encore appearance?)  After all, Jesus was already famous there, already a first century “idol” of sorts (posters on the kids’ walls and so on).  In knowing of His earlier presence in this specific area, Jesus’ previous “healing” certainly explains why the deaf man was brought to Him for a cure.

To begin, let me give a little geography lesson on the area in today’s Gospel.  I believe knowing the area, and its inhabitants, helps understand their motives – – and Jesus actions.  The cities of Tyre and Sidon were famous areas in the ancient Near East.  Both are now located in present day Lebanon, with Tyre 20 miles south of Sidon and 12 miles north of today’s present Israel-Lebanon border.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, each of these cities today is just a shadow of their former selves.

Sidon, called “Saida” today (an Arabic word for “fishing”), was named after the firstborn son of Canaan (cf., Genesis 10:15) and was probably settled by his descendants as a port city from its very beginning.  Sidon was built on a peninsula, with a nearby island sheltering its natural harbor from Mediterranean storms.

Twenty miles south of Sidon, in the middle of a coastal plain, Tyre (now called by the Arabic name, “Sour”), was constructed on a rock island just a few hundred yards out into the Mediterranean Sea.  In fact, Tyre took its name from the physical makeup of this island.  The word “Tyre” comes from the Semitic language, meaning “rock”.  The rich, well-watered plain of Tyre became the fortified island’s primary source or food, water, wood, and other essentials needed for existence.  Apparently this specific island was fortified first and called Tyre, while the coastal city directly opposite was settled later and also used this name as well. 

The Decapolis (two Greek words meaning “ten” and “city”) was a group of ten cities in present-day Jordan, Syria, and Palestine.  Decapolis was, at one time, on the eastern edge of the Roman Empire.  The ten cities making up the area called “Decapolis”, were not an official grouping, or even an organized community.  They were grouped together solely because of their similarities in language, culture, location, and politics.  The Decapolis was a center of Greek and Roman culture in a region which was otherwise Semitic (Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Maltese, and Amharic).  Interestingly however, each of these cities had a certain degree of autonomy and self-rule under the Roman Government.

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The story in Mark’s Gospel preceding today’s reading sets the stage for today’s “healing” encounter (cf., Mark 7:25-30).  In the preceding story, Jesus comes upon a Gentile, a Syrophoenician woman, who asks Him to heal her demon-possessed daughter.  In this preceding story, Jesus engages the woman in a discourse about not feeding to dogs the food intended for children.  In other words, why should He [Jesus] help her, a non-Jew?  (Jesus believed His primary audience was His own people.)  However, Jesus, impressed and moved by the woman’s great faith shown in her reply to Him: “even dogs eat the food that falls from the table”, Immediately heals her daughter!!  The great, undaunted faith of this Roman-Greek “non-Jewish” woman actually compelled Jesus to respond to her plea for help.  WOW!  The power of faith and persistence!!

In today’s story, He shows His sincere compassion, kindness, and generosity for this man’s predicament, and heals him a dramatic manner!!  Jesus takes the deaf man aside privately, no doubt to remove him from the embarrassment of being exposed to a noisy crowd of staring people.

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Jesus then puts His fingers into the man’s ears (WHAT??); and He touches the man’s tongue with His own “spittle” (Double WHAT??).  He carried out these actions in order to physically identify with this man’s infirmity, and to awaken the man’s faith already within him.  With a simple command, “Ephphatha”, the afflicted man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he could now speak plainly, perhaps for the very first time in his life. 

So, from a spiritual viewpoint, what is the significance of Jesus putting His fingers in the man’s ears?  Saint Pope Gregory I, 540-604 AD (Gregory the Great), wrote on this very question:

“The Spirit is called the finger of God.  When the Lord puts His fingers into the ears of the deaf mute, he was opening the soul of man to faith through the gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Unknown source to this author)

Luke, in his Gospel, also mentions this same “finger of God”:

“It is by the finger of God that [Jesus] drive out demons” (Luke 11:20).

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There is an irony in the story of the healing Mark tells in today’s reading.  Jesus gives the man the gift of speech, but then tells him not to use it.  Jesus instructs the “cured” man not to spread the good news of his cure at the hands of His healing power, a strong evidence of His identity and verification as the true Savior Messiah.  Jesus’ instruction of silence is a recurring theme in Mark’s Gospel; some bible scholars today have called this Counsel of Jesus (“Don’t publicize this!”) as the “messianic secret”.

Interestingly though, Mark even goes so far as to say that when the “cured” man and others witnessing his cure were told to stop talking about the man’s cure, “the more they proclaimed it”.  The same verb used by Mark for “proclaim” “eipwsin” (to speak or to say), in relation to the miracles of Jesus, is used in his Gospel three other times:

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God” (Mark 1:14);

But the gospel must first be preached to all nations” (Mark 13:10);

And,

Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9).

Wow!!  For me, what was subjectively implied in the actions of the crowd of today’s reading is their recognition of the divine power of effecting miraculous cures (prophesized by Isaiah – in todayy’s first reading), and revealing the saving mission of Jesus Christ

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In Summary, Mark shows that Jesus’ own mission pronounced and verified the early Church’s mission to both the Jewish and the Gentile nations – – a “universal” (Catholic) mission.  This mission to the Gentiles was a significant and unique issue for the early Christian community.  However, they came to realize, through such teachings and writings as in today’s Gospel, that the good news of Jesus truly did take root, and quickly spread, among the Gentiles as well as the Jews. 

Jesus uses His “actions” to show the spiritual aspect of His healings.  His actions ARE our present day “Sacraments”.  (STOP – – Just dwell on this last sentence for a short time.  It is a powerfully revealing point of fact.)  Still today, the Catholic Church continues to participate in, and celebrate, these “actions” as our “Sacraments” using physical means.  In the Sacrament of Baptism, water and oil are used to show the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  In the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, we are anointed with holy oil on the forehead and the hands.  In the Holy Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ (by transubstantiation).  Catholics are truly a “sacramental” people, believing God’s graces are imparted to us through these “actions” as physical signs and rites.

In today’s Gospel reading, the people’s response to this “healing” miracle truly testified to Jesus’ great and loving care for ALL others – Jewish and Gentile alike.  Jesus “did all things well”, and will continue to do ALL things well through His family and their special “actions”- – FOREVER!!  There is NO problem or burden too much for Jesus’ careful consideration.  He treats each of us with kindness and compassion, and calls each of us – – individually and personally – – to treat one another as He Himself does for us:

I [Jesus] give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).

The Holy Spirit dwelling within us enables us, giving us the ability to love, AS Jesus loves.  So, love others, treating them with love and civility – – especially those hard to love – – as Jesus did Himself, and as He shows us how to do through His loving actions.

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In Conclusion, today’s Gospel invites us to consider how we witness to the healing presence of Jesus Christ in OUR care for, and ministry to, those who are sick.  In today’s reading, we notice that the deaf man is brought to Jesus for healing by his friends.  They beg Jesus to “lay his hands” on this deaf man, healing him.  Jesus’ healing power is shown in His opening of the man’s ears and the restoring of his speech. 

When family members care for one who is sick, they also bring Christ’s healing presence with and through them.  When we pray for those who are ill, we are asking God to show His healing power though are words and actions.  And, when health is restored, we share that “good news” with others.

So, recall a time when a family member or close friend was ill, and recall the steps taken to help restore this person to good health.  Think about how it feels to care for a person who is ill, and also about how it feels to BE the sick person receiving care.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus healed a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment; now notice how the “cured man” and his friends could not honor Jesus’ request to keep quiet about His power to heal.  They had so much praise and thanks, they COULD NOT keep quiet.  We also should not keep quiet, but continue to celebrate Jesus’ healing presence in our lives by giving praise and thanks to Him for His gift of healing and health to us and others.  On a daily basis, let us all publically and privately thank Jesus for our gifts of health and healing – – even when our health may be not so great:

In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 18) . 

So, pray for those who are sick and bed-ridden, ending each prayer with “Jesus, heal us” – – and, “Thank You”.

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Reflection Prayer:   

 

A PRAYER FOR HEALING

 

“Lord, You invite all who are burdened to come to you.  Allow Your healing Hand to heal me.  Touch my soul with Your compassion for others; touch my heart with Your courage and infinite Love for all; touch my mind with Your Wisdom, and may my mouth always proclaim Your praise.  Teach me to reach out to You in all my needs, and help me to lead others to You by my example.  

Most loving Heart of Jesus, bring me health in body and spirit that I may serve You with all my strength.  Touch gently this life which you have created, now and forever.  Amen.”

 

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1325

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“John, Don’t Lose Your Head Over My Divinity! You Are Great In Your Own Right!” – Matthew 11:2-11†


  

We are Half-Way though the Advent Season today; only thirteen (13) days till the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

Green Bay’s Bishop David Ricken becomes first in US to approve local Marian apparitions from 1859

 

CHAMPION, Wis. (CNS) — Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay has approved the Marian apparitions seen by Adele Brise in 1859, making the apparitions of Mary that occurred some 18 miles northeast of Green Bay the first in the United States to receive approval of a diocesan bishop.

Brise, a Belgian immigrant, was 28 when Mary appeared to her three times in October 1859. The first appearance took place while Brise was carrying a sack of wheat to a grist mill about four miles from Robinsonville, now known as Champion.

Brise devoted the rest of her life to teaching children. She began a community of Third Order Franciscan sisters and built a school next to the shrine. Brise’s father, Lambert, built a small chapel near the spot of the apparitions. When a brick chapel was built in 1880, the trees where Mary appeared were cut down and the chapel’s altar was placed over the spot.

Apparitions have taken place throughout history “as a sign of God’s providence, to remind us of what God has already revealed,” said Father Doerfler. “As a loving mother would remind her children about things that are important, so our Blessed Mother Mary has appeared throughout history to remind us of things that are important for our salvation and to draw us closer to her Son.”

Read the full story at:
http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1005014.htm

 

 

The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word meaning “rejoice.”  This Sunday is so named because “Rejoice” is the first word in the entrance antiphon for today’s Mass taken from Philippians 4:4,5:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.”

Some people mark this Sunday on their Advent wreath with a pink candle instead of a purple candle.  This day is a joyful reminder that our salvation is near.

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   1098 – First Crusade: Massacre of Ma’arrat al-Numan – Crusaders breach the town’s walls and massacre about 20,000 inhabitants. After finding themselves with insufficient food, they resort to cannibalism. [A sad and lowly part of Church history]
†   1212 – Death of Geoffrey, Archbishop of York
†   1524 – Pope Clement VII approves Organization of Jewish Community of Rome
†   1610 – Birth of Saint Vasilije (St. Basil of Ostrog), Bishop of Zahumlje in Herzegovina (d. 1671)
†   1769 – Pope Clement XIV proclaims a universal jubilee
†   1779 – Birth of Madeleine Sophie Barat, French saint (d. 1865)
†   2003 – Death of Joseph Anthony Ferrario, American Catholic prelate (b. 1926)
†   2008 – Death of Avery Dulles, Roman Catholic Cardinal, Theologian (b. 1918)
†   Feast Day: Mexico – Our Lady of Guadalupe Day

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscans witness to a genuine love and respect for the poor and vulnerable.

“For Francis, poverty involved not only serving the poor but being poor and connected to those who were poor and outcast.  This service to and identification with the poor was at the heart of the lives of Francis and Clare, it is there that they discovered Christ as “the poor Son of the poor Mother.”  Following the example of these saints, members of the Franciscan family today are called to be with and identify with the poor and vulnerable and with all who face discrimination of one form or another.  We are called to be in solidarity with them in their struggle to have their God-given rights honored by others.  We are called to develop a lifestyle that brings us close to the poor and makes us sensitive to those who are most vulnerable.” 

“Francis went around the cities and villages, proclaiming the kingdom of God and preaching peace.”  Thomas of Celano, The Life of St. Francis, 36

(From the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) website:
http://www.franciscanaction.org)

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

You Might be a Roman Catholic…

…if you think God’s presence is always strongest in the back three pews.
…if you judge the quality of the Mass by the length of the Homily.

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling John the Baptist of the signs of the kingdom that are being worked through him; and praises John as more than a prophet.

 

2When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him 3 with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”  4 Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  6 And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”  7 As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see?  A reed swayed by the wind?  8 Then what did you go out to see?  Someone dressed in fine clothing?  Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.  9 Then why did you go out?  To see a prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  10 This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’  11 Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  (NAB Matthew 11:2-11)

 

This week’s Gospel continues a reflection on the personhood, ministry, and message of John the Baptist.  Last week at Mass, John spoke about his relationship to Jesus, the coming “one” prophesized in the Old Testament.  This week, we have Jesus’ message to John, who is imprisoned (and a message to us as well).  Jesus’ message is about the signs of the kingdom found in John’s ministry.  Jesus’ examines, and praises John’s “role” in salvation history and in the Kingdom of God.

Have you noticed the perceived undertone present in today’s Gospel reading?  There seems to be a subdued, yet noticeable and growing opposition to Jesus, if you “read between the lines.” From this point on, there will be more disputes, challenges, and attacks relating to “faith” and “discipleship” in reference (and preference) to Jesus in the future readings.

John the Baptist is now “in prison”.   Upon finding out of John’s capture and imprisonment, Jesus withdrew to Galilee (Matthew 4:12).  According to Josephus (Antiquities 18, 5, 2 #116-19), Herod imprisoned – – and then executed – – John because he feared that John the Baptist’s influence over the people could possibly enable him to lead a rebellion.  The murder of John (see Matthew 14: 1-2) by Herod Antipas foreshadows the death of Jesus (see Matthew 17:12).  

John stood in the doorway between the Old and New Testaments.  He stood in the doorway between the Old and New Covenants of God.  For me, John the Baptist was the bright “light stream” in the vast desert pointing vividly to the safe and lovingly calm harbor of Jesus, similar to the light stream of a lonely lighthouse pointing the lost in the vast seas to a safe, calm, and loving harbor of safety.  John points to the “door” of Jesus moving inwardly from the “Old” – – towards the “New” – – kingdom of God.

John foretold and prepared the way for the Messiah – Jesus Christ.  At the Jordan River, He also pointed his own followers to Jesus when he extolled, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).  John knew early on in His ministerial life what Jesus the “Messiah” would accomplish through His death on that Holy Tree of crucifixion.

Nearing the end of His life, today’s Gospel shows us how John queried whether Jesus was truly the “promised Messiah”.  Jesus retorted to John’s uncertainties by recounting the firm proof of facts about his ministry.

While in prison, why did John send his followers to question Jesus as he was sitting in prison knowing was going to die soon, at the hands of King Herod.  In verse 3, the question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another” expressed a doubt from John the Baptist.  He wanted to know if Jesus was truly “the one who is to come”.  The reason: because Jesus’ mission had NOT been one of a “fiery judgment” as John (and almost all Jewish people) had expected, but rather one of simple repentance.  John knew prophesies of the Old Testament.  In Malachi 3:1, it read:

“Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.  But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.  He will sit refining and purifying (silver), and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.”

Jesus responds by pointing to the miracles that He has worked.  He says that His miracles, actions, and words about the kingdom of God is proof enough in recognizing the realization of Isaiah’s prophecy foretelling the signs and wonders which the Messiah would perform  (see Isaiah 35).  

In his rabbinic teaching style, Jesus also returned one question with another to Him and his followers: What do you see in John the Baptist?  His response to John’s question was also rabbinic in nature as it was taken from the Old Testament.   He took passages from Isaiah that pictures the time of salvation as being marked by deeds and acts, such as those that Jesus is doing. These passages were a caveat and warning to John the Baptist to NOT disbelieve solely because he believes his own expectations have not been met.

“But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise; awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.  For your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth.”  (Isaiah 26:19)

“On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.  The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”  (Isaiah 29:18-19)

“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe.”  (Isaiah 35:5-6)

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.”  (Isaiah 61:1)

Jesus’ rebuke of John for questioning His divinity is offset by His reminder to the crowd of the greatness of John the Baptist’s role and function in salvation history (verses 7-11).  Jesus praises John for his role in preparing the way for Jesus – – the “MESSIAH!”

Why does Jesus contrast John with a “reed”?  Unlike a reed, which is spineless and easily bruised, John the Baptist stands as a truth of faith because his heart, soul, and body – his entire being – was surrendered to God.  John the Baptist burns brightly, warmly, and intensely with the fire of God’s truth and love for all mankind.

There was a common belief among the Jewish faithful that there had been no prophets in Israel since Malachi.  The coming of a new prophet was eagerly awaited among all Jewish people.  Jesus basically sanctions that John was that prophet, sent to foretell the coming of the Messiah that all was waiting.  John was the precursor of the “one” who would bring in the new and final age.  John was the last of the prophets to announce Jesus’ coming.  In leaping for joy in Elizabeth’s womb, John was also the first witness to Jesus’ divinity(along with Mary and Joseph)!

John’s preeminent greatness lies in his purpose of announcing the nearness of the “kingdom”.  Jesus is telling all hearing that the “kingdom” of God is so great a privilege, pleasure, and joy, – – that the least in God’s kingdom – – is greater than the last and greatest prophet: John the Baptist.  All who work for the Kingdom of God will be as great as John – and even greater!

Jesus’ message to John about the signs of the kingdom being performed recalls the salvation described by the prophet Isaiah. This Gospel reading is a reminder that the beginning of salvation is already present to us, but also yet to be fully fulfilled.

Someone who is “tepid” – careless, half-hearted, and lukewarm – can be easily influenced and converted by others.  If we want to be like John the Baptist, we must surrender our heart, soul, and body to Jesus Christ and his kingdom of everlasting peace, joy, and righteousness.  There is absolutely NO room for compromise on this matter of faith and fact.  We are either for Jesus and His kingdom or against Jesus and His kingdom – no fence walkers are allowed.  

Salvation is already in our midst as apparent in the miracles demonstrated by Jesus so many years ago, and in the Church today.  But salvation is also to be fulfilled in the coming reign of God.  

Look at our society and the societies around us.  Look at what is happening around the world today.  Though we can find glimpses of God’s work among us, it would so very easy to become disheartened and depressed by the apparent and obvious secularization of society.  The “absence” of God and His salvation is prevalent in today’s families and societies (even so-called Catholic ones).  Jesus’ excruciatingly painful death on the “Holy Tree” captured our hearts and souls, and opened the doorway to heaven.  We cannot truly know why there is so much pain and suffering in this world.  But, we do know that Jesus walked that same path during His time of humanity on earth.  And He is accompanying us on our path still today, especially close to us in times of pain and suffering.  That is why He is called Emmanuel: “God is with us!!”

 Advent is a season of “hope.  We should acknowledge that salvation is both mysteriously present in our world, and yet to be fully and truly fulfilled in the unknown future.  We are also expected to help prepare the way for God’s kingdom by our own actions, words, and prayers.

Reflect on John’s question to Jesus: “Are you the One?”  Jesus does not answer his question directly (he was a great therapist – without a couch though), but points to the signs of the kingdom present around Him.  Try looking through your local newspaper for signs of hope that God is at work in your world and neighborhood.  

Each of us has times when we questioned God’s love, mercy, and attention to us.  There are times when we feel ambiguous or unsure about following Jesus on His path.  At these times, Jesus gives us the exact same answer he gave to John the Baptist: “Review your life.”  Try to remember the beautiful, wonderful, and awe inspiring things you have seen the Lord do in your life, in others, and in nature.  Keep hold of your trust, faith, and love for God – even when it doesn’t make a lot of sense to you at that time.  Eventually, you too will be vindicated by God’s love for you!!

 

Our Father

 

“Our Father, who art in Heaven; hallowed by Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.  Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

The feast in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe goes back to the sixteenth century. Chronicles of that period tell us the story.

A poor Indian named Cuauhtlatohuac was baptized and given the name Juan Diego.  He was a 57-year-old widower and lived in a small village near Mexico City.  On Saturday morning, December 9, 1531, he was on his way to a nearby barrio to attend Mass in honor of Our Lady.

He was walking by a hill called Tepeyac when he heard beautiful music like the warbling of birds.  A radiant cloud appeared and within it a young Native American maiden dressed like an Aztec princess.  The lady spoke to him in his own language and sent him to the bishop of Mexico, a Franciscan named Juan de Zumarraga.  The bishop was to build a chapel in the place where the lady appeared.

Eventually the bishop told Juan Diego to have the lady give him a sign.  About this same time Juan Diego’s uncle became seriously ill.  This led poor Diego to try to avoid the lady.  The lady found Diego, nevertheless, assured him that his uncle would recover and provided roses for Juan to carry to the bishop in his cape or tilma.

When Juan Diego opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence, the roses fell to the ground and the bishop sank to his knees.  On Juan Diego’s tilma appeared an image of Mary exactly as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac.  It was December 12, 1531.

Comment:

Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego as one of his people is a powerful reminder that Mary and the God who sent her accept all peoples.  In the context of the sometimes rude and cruel treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards, the apparition was a rebuke to the Spaniards and an event of vast significance for Native Americans.  While a number of them had converted before this incident, they now came in droves.  According to a contemporary chronicler, nine million Indians became Catholic in a very short time.  In these days when we hear so much about God’s preferential option for the poor, Our Lady of Guadalupe cries out to us that God’s love for and identification with the poor is an age-old truth that stems from the Gospel itself.

Quote:

Mary to Juan Diego: “My dearest son, I am the eternal Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, Author of Life, Creator of all and Lord of the Heavens and of the Earth…and it is my desire that a church be built here in this place for me, where, as your most merciful Mother and that of all your people, I may show my loving clemency and the compassion that I bear to the Indians, and to those who love and seek me…”  (from an ancient chronicle).

Patron Saint of: Americas; Mexico

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 12 & 13 of 26:

 

Witnessing to the good yet to come and obligated to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.

 

 

 

 

As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.

A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Go South Young Man, Go South, Says the Winged Wonder!” – Acts 8:26-36†


Today in Catholic History:
† 296 – Death of Pope Caius
† 455 – Petronius Maximus, Roman Emperor
† 536 – Death of Pope Agapetus I
† 1509 – Henry VIII ascends the throne of England after the death of his father.
† 1610 – Birth of Pope Alexander VIII (d. 1691)
† 1864 – Congress authorized the inscription “In God We Trust” on coins minted as U.S. currency.
† 1970 – First Earth Day celebrated.

Today’s reflection is about Phillip evangelizing to an African slave. 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

We cannot do great things — only small things with great love. — Mother Teresa

Today’s Meditation:

Then the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, “Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.”  So he got up and set out. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, that is, the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury, who had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home.  Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.  The Spirit said to Philip, “Go and join up with that chariot.”  Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.  This was the scripture passage he was reading: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth.  In (his) humiliation justice was denied him. Who will tell of his posterity? For his life is taken from the earth.”  Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply, “I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this? About himself, or about someone else?”  Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him.  As they traveled along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water. What is to prevent my being baptized?”  (NAB Acts 8:26-36)
  

Is Phillip responsible for the first Gentile convert to Catholicism? I am not sure, since Peter has a remarkable mass-conversion story as well.  It is just remarkable that conversions are literally happening left and right so shortly after the cruelty of Jesus’ execution.  I wonder how many possible converts did not commit out of fear of similar fates.

The story of this official’s conversion to Christianity is given a strong supernatural cast by the introduction of an angel, and instruction from the Holy Spirit.  Whether sent by an angel or the Holy Spirit, the initiative plan for the mission was God’s: Phillip is only the pawn in God’s plan.  Phillip had a northward movement towards Samaria.  Now he is told to head south, where he will meet his charge.

This gentleman, a slave to the queen of Nubia is quite impressive.  The conversion of this Ethiopian eunuch, gives additional evidence to show the spread of Christianity outside the confines of Judaism itself, and was in accord with the plan of God.  This man, having deep African origins conjures up dark skinned converts well beyond the Jewish civilization’s outer boundaries and most definitely on its way to ends of the earth.

It is not clear whether the Ethiopian was originally a convert to Judaism or, as is more probable, a “God-fearer:” such as one who accepted Jewish monotheism and ethic, and attended the synagogue, but did not consider himself bound by some of the regulations like circumcision and dietary laws.  

Candace” is not a proper name, but the title of a Nubian queen.  Nubia is the region in the south of Egypt, along the Nile and in northern Sudan, and during this time in history, was a separate kingdom.  The name of the Queen, or the slave for that manner, is unknown.

Philip is brought alongside the carriage at the very moment when the Ethiopian is pondering the meaning of Isaiah 53:7-8 (“Like a sheep … taken from the earth.”), a passage that Christianity, from its earliest origins, has applied to Jesus.  He was led to slaughter while remaining quiet and humble; killed in a very humiliating way; and was resurrected and ascended to heaven.  Isaiah was a “way too cool” prophet!

This Ethiopian, after talking to Phillips for such a small amount of time, has a very profound conversion.  He wishes to follow in Christ’s footsteps: on the same journey to salvation.  This encounter has a sacramental outcome.  He wants to begin his eternal life with the living water washing away his old life.

“My God, and my all.  Please allow me to have the obedience and wisdom of Phillip.  Tell me which way to turn in order to claim you love for us all.  Amen.”

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Abdiesus

Also called Hebed Jesus, a deacon in the Christian community of Persia who was caught up in the persecutions conducted by King Shapur II. Records indicate that Abdiesus was accompanied in his martyrdom by Abrosimus, Acepsimus, Azadanes, Azades, Bicor, Mareas, Milles, and a women named Tarbula. Some were Persian courtiers, others priests and bishops. Tarbula was the sister of St. Simeon, and suffered a particularly cruel death by sawing

 (From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #22:

The local fraternity is to be established canonically. It becomes the basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the community of love. This should be the privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the apostolic life of its members.

“There’s a New Marshall in Town Phillip!” – Acts 8:1b-8†


Today in Catholic History:
† 753 BC – Romulus and Remus found Rome (traditional).
† 1073 – Death of Pope Alexander II
† 1509 – Henry VIII ascends the throne of England (unofficially) at the death of his father, Henry VII.
† 1651 – Birth of Blessed Joseph Vaz, Apostle of Ceylon (d. 1711)
† 1673 – Birth of Wilhelmina Amalia of Brunswick, Holy Roman Empire Empress (d. 1742)
† 1767 – Birth of Elisabeth of Württemberg, Empress consort of the Holy Roman Empire (d. 1790)
† 1854 – Birth of William Stang, Roman Catholic Bishop (d. 1907)
† Liturgical feasts: Holy Infant of Good Health, Saint Abdecalas, Saint Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, Saint Anastasius I, Saint Konrad von Parzham, Saint Wolbodo

 

Today’s reflection is about Saul’s personal mission to destroy the Catholic Church.

Quote or Joke of the Day:

Every man is a fool in some man’s opinion. — Spanish Proverb

Today’s Meditation:

There broke out a severe persecution of the church in Jerusalem, and all were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.  Devout men buried Stephen and made a loud lament over him.  Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment.  Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.  Thus Philip went down to (the) city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them.  With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.  For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed and crippled people were cured.  There was great joy in that city.  (NAB Acts 8:1b-8) 

The severity of the persecution that breaks out against the Jerusalem community concentrates on the word of Jesus’ resurrection being spread among all the people of the region,  and the dispersal of the Jewish Christian community from Jerusalem, resulting in the conversion of the Samaritans (see Acts 8:4-17, 25).  

All were scattered . . . except the apostles” is an observation that led some modern scholars to conclude that the persecution was limited to the Hellenist (Grecian oriented) Christians, and that the Hebrew Christians were not molested.  Perhaps this is because the Hebrew Christians attitude toward the law and temple was still more in line with that of their fellow Jews.  

Saul . . . was trying to destroy the church” because Saul was able to perceive that the Christian movement among the Jews of Jerusalem, contained the seeds of a major doctrinal divergence from Judaism.  A pupil of Gamaliel the Elder, a Pharisee doctor of the Jewish Law, who was a man of great respect (see Acts 22:3); Saul was totally dedicated to the law as the way of salvation (see Gal 1:13-14), Saul accepted the task of crushing the Christian movement.  He believed that the Christian teachings detracted from the importance of the Jewish Temple and laws.  His vehement opposition to Christianity reveals how difficult it was for a Jew of his time to accept a messianic revelation that differed so greatly from the general expectation of the tradition of the  messiah.

Saul’s devotion to the Jewish faith was so strong and militant in his approach, that it was hard for anyone to dissuade him from his Jewish faith and beliefs, nor his mission to literally destroy any believers of Jesus being the messiah or Christ-figure.  The strength of his devotion to a religion never changed: only his religion changed.  After becoming a Christian, his faith was at least equal to Jesus’ disciples and apostles.

Phillip left for “heathen” turf.  He felt certain that no one would ever come for him so far away from the center of the Jewish faith.  Jesus went to the “unwanted” in Jewish society: the sick, lame, and criminals.  Now, His disciples have gone to areas that the Jewish faith is of little concern.  Jesus said He is he Bread of Life, and now He is becoming the Bread of Life for all: the devout, and the uncommitted; the religious and the secular; the Jew and the pagan.

The crowds apparently were not only interested with what Phillip- was telling them, they accepted his teachings and became followers: they became Christians.  With accepting the faith, they also became vessels for the Holy Spirit, and miracles are always present when the Holy Spirit is involved.  The majority only had the small miracle of knowing that through Jesus, they will live for eternity in paradise regardless of what happens in their mortal lives.  Some had added miracles of healing: mentally, physically, and most definitely spiritually.

Any time I have found that people that have let God into their lives, great joy and awe erupts with illuminating emotions on all faces: the individuals involved, and in the witnesses.  Watch people when they are baptized, confirmed, or have just received forgiveness through the Sacrament of reconciliation.  Look at the faces of the parents of adult children that enter the Church during the Easter Season through the RCIA program.  See all the faces on the altar and in the pews, at a wedding ceremony.  All you see is joy, with only one not happy: Satan.

“Lord Jesus, use me as you used Phillip to evangelize to the ‘heathens’ in my own society.  Let me be an instrument of your love and peace.  Amen.” 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Conrad of Parzham 1818-1894

Conrad, whose baptismal name was John, was the son of the devout and honest couple George Birndorfer and Gertrude Niedermayer. He was born on a farm near the town of Parzham in Bavaria in the year 1818. From his earliest years he gave indications of his future sanctity by his modesty and love of solitude. The fervor of his devotion was noticeable especially when he prayed in church, the distant location of which was no hindrance to his visiting it frequently even in inclement weather. He was inflamed with great love for the Blessed Virgin, and each day fervently recited the rosary. On feast days he frequently made a journey to some remote shrine of the Mother of God. During such pilgrimages, always made on foot, he was constantly engaged in prayer, and when he returned in the evening, he was usually still fasting.

Having spent his youthful years on the farm, closely united to God by means of interior union with Him, he decided at the age of 31 to bid farewell to the world. After disposing of a very large inheritance, he received permission to be admitted as a lay brother among the Capuchins.

Immediately after his profession he was sent to the convent of St. Anne in the city of Altoetting. This place is particularly renowned among all others in Germany for its shrine of the Mother of Mercy, and hundreds, even thousands of the faithful come there daily. Because of the great concourse of people in this city, the duty of the porter at the friary is a very difficult one. As soon as he arrived, this charge was given to Conrad, who retained it until his death. Diligent at his work, sparing in words, bountiful to the poor, eager and ready to receive and help strangers, Brother Conrad calmly fulfilled the task of porter for more than 40 years, during which time he greatly benefited the inhabitants of the city as well as strangers in all their needs of body and soul.

Among the virtues he practiced, he loved silence in a special way. His spare moments during the day were spent in a nook near the door where it was possible for him to see and adore the Blessed Eucharist. During the night he would deprive himself of several hours of sleep, to devote the time to prayer either in the oratory of the brothers or in the church. Indeed, it was quite generally believed that he never took any rest, but continually occupied himself in work and exercises of devotion.

On a certain feast day, when he had ministered to a large number of pilgrims, he felt his strength leaving him. He was obliged to manifest his weakness to his superior. Obedience sent him to bed. Only three days later, little children, to whom the news of Conrad’s sickness had not been given lest they be over saddened, gathered as by instinct around the friary, reciting the rosary. As Blessed Father Francis had died to the music of the birds he loved, so his son died with the voices of the children, these lovely creatures of God, ringing in his ears. On April 21, 1894, the Capuchin porter heard the sound of the Bell for which he had so patiently waited. For the last time he ran to the Door. But this time the Door was literally his Christ.

His heroic virtues and the miracles he performed won for him the distinction to be ranked among the Blessed by Pope Pius XI in the year 1930. Four years later, the same pope, approving additional miracles which had been performed, solemnly inscribed his name in the list of saints.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints,
ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #21:

On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.   Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.